There were tears of joy and relief at a surprise party thrown in honour of a Hartlepool schoolboy.
Alfie Smith has always dreamed of one day walking unaided and pain free.
Now, he is hoping to embark on his first steps thanks to kind-hearted well-wishers after he hit his first milestone of raising £50,000 – within four months.
The sum has enabled the nine-year-old who has cerebral palsy to book his operation at Leeds General Hospital, where he will undergo selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) before he will embark on two years of intensive physiotherapy.
At a party held at the Staincliffe Hotel in Seaton Carew, Alfie’s school friends and those who have played a part in helping him to achieve his first milestone, were the first to hear that a date has now been set for Alfie to have his operation.
The youngster will go to Leeds on March 16 for surgery.
The party was also the first time Alfie and his family came face to face with Julie Cooper, from the Finley Fund, set up in memory of the son of former Hartlepool United boss Colin Cooper, who donated the £13,568 to enable him to smash the £50,000 initial target, as well as mother and daughter team Cheryl McDonald and Lynne Davis from Community Corner in South Tyneside, who raised funds with the support of residents and local businesses for the youngster.
The cash will help pay for his third year of physiotherapy. However, fundraising for specialist equipment, which is set to run into thousands of pounds, is still ongoing.
His mam Annie Stalley said: “It is just really overwhelming for us all.
“It’s such a nice surprise from everyone to do this for Alfie and he’s delighted with it.”
Speaking about the news that Alfie is set to be operated on within a number of weeks, Annie added: “It’s a massive relief that it’s all booked in and we can look forward to it.
“The fund-raising has been brilliant, but this is where the journey really starts.
“Now we’re counting down the days until Leeds.
“It’s just amazing what people have done for him.
“To have £50,000 raised is outstanding.”
Cheryl added: “When we heard about Alfie and what he needed to raise we couldn’t not help.
“It’s something we felt in our hearts that we had to do and we wish him all the best.”